Spanish Minister Teresa Ribera and German Economy Minister Robert Habeck at the extraordinary meeting of the Energy Council in Brussels on Tuesday, 26 July. / EFE

EU reaches agreement to save gas in the face of possible Russian cuts

The European Commission's initial text, however, was not very well received by countries such as Spain and Portugal, as it proposed voluntary reductions of 15 per cent in gas consumption for all

OLATZ HERNÁNDEZ

Reaching an agreement on gas cuts at European level was not an impossible mission, and the EU-27 proved it on Tuesday, 26 July. The energy ministers have reached a consensus on the plan to save gas for the winter in the face of possible supply cuts by Russia. This was announced by the Czech presidency on its social media networks and, although the details of the agreement are not yet known, it is expected to include exceptions and flexibility measures depending on each country.

The ministers went to Tuesday's meeting with the text already worked out and with the firm conviction that "a common solution" would be reached. The European Commission's initial text, however, was not very well received by countries such as Spain and Portugal, as it proposed voluntary reductions of 15 per cent in gas consumption for all countries. From the outset, Spain has defended its role as a liquefied natural gas (LNG) hub, a position that allows it to export to the rest of Europe. Spanish infrastructures will allow this flow to increase to seven billion cubic metres per year, which represents 13 per cent of the gas the continent needs to fill its reserves.

The Council has finally agreed that member states that are not interconnected to other countries - islands such as Malta and Cyprus - will be exempt from the 15 per cent savings requested by Brussels, as "they would not release significant volumes of gas for the benefit of other countries", the text states. Exceptions are also included for those states that are not synchronised with the European system – the Baltic states – and those that are highly dependent on gas, to avoid the risk of a supply crisis.

The scarce interconnections will also be taken into account, a scenario that Spain and Portugal could use to avoid gas rationing. The Council also agreed that priority should be given to measures that do not affect households and critical entities such as health services. It emphasised that the regulation is of an exceptional nature and that it will be in force for a limited time, with the aim of filling gas reserves until next March.